Open Source Software Development is CrowdSourcing

Tonight I started working on an overview of the crowdsourcing space, cataloging different examples of crowdsourcing and all its various forms.

I thought I would take a break from the larger project to reflect on crowdsourcing and open source software development.

Open Source refers to the intellectual property laws related to a software. In a very general sense, open source software may be altered by individuals without legal repercussions. (Learn more about open source software development).

The result of open source software development is a massive collection of amazingly powerful software tools includes Emacs, PHP, jQuery, Ubuntu, MySQL and FireFox, to name only a very small subset of excellent open source products.

How were these projects able to be so successful? How is it that an open source company like MySQL can be purchased for $1 billion? [Sun was later purchased by Oracle for $7.4 billion.]

The simple answer: Crowdsourcing.

Open source software projects allowed developers to access the source code (the “what” that makes the software interpretable by computers, i.e. “do stuff”) and modify that source code to fit the developers’ needs. In many cases, the developers modifying and customizing the software were able to create easy to use repositories for other developers to use as needed. Through the effort of thousands of smart developers, software began leaping forward extremely fast by leveraging the creation of these “moduals.” Open source software development can almost be thought of as Legos:

I create my little piece here that is the “corner” of something that combines with your piece you developed to create a window, which we then combine with the original Lego set released by Lego to make a mansion instead of a small house!

Software development is so fast that private companies with paid developers are frequently hard pressed to keep up–and in some cases the companies cannot keep up.

From this perspective, open source software development strategy is the first major historical example of crowdsourcing.

Can you think of others?

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